An anonymous whistleblower from the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has revealed that important financial documents relating to Michael Cohen’s activities were removed from a federal database.
Ronan Farrow, a journalist for The New Yorker, published the story Wednesday, which quickly made headlines across the major media networks.
It’s been established that Michael Cohen, personal lawyer to the president of the United States, set up a shell company called Essential Consultants LLC to both make payments to individuals such as Stephanie Clifford (AKA Stormy Daniels) as well as to receive payments from companies like AT&T.
A “suspicious-activity report,” or SAR, filed by First Republic Bank was obtained by Michael Avenatti, lawyer to Stephanie Clifford, in which the payments from AT&T, Novartis, Korea Aerospace, and a Russian oligarch were detailed.
And then things started to get interesting.
The SAR that Avenatti obtained referred to two prior SARs, which had also been filed by First Republic Bank, and which detailed additional transactions amounting to more than $3 million.
The individuals or corporations involved in the transactions remain a mystery, because the SARs were actually removed from a federal database maintained by FinCEN.
The whistleblower reportedly discovered that the SARs were missing from the system, and was immediately concerned.
“I have never seen something pulled off the system. . . . That system is a safeguard for the bank. It’s a stockpile of information. When something’s not there that should be, I immediately became concerned. That’s why I came forward.”
In a decision that put the official at great personal risk, he or she decided to release the missing documents to law enforcement.
Although the official potentially faces serious legal ramifications — the disclosure of an SAR is a federal offense that carries penalties of a $250 thousand dollar fine and up to five years in prison — they have said that their concern surrounding the missing documents outweighed their concern for their own well-being.
“We’ve accepted this as normal, and this is not normal. Things that stand out as abnormal, like documents being removed from a system, are of grave concern to me.”
Farrow communicated with seven other former government officials, who all expressed varying degrees of alarm regarding the missing reports.
There is speculation that perhaps FinCEN may have restricted access to the reports, but such an action would be entirely unprecedented.
Daniel Drezner, a former employee of the Treasury Department and current Washington Post contributor, was shocked to hear to hear about the story:
Although SARs are confidential, Avenatti has called for their release to the American public.
Iron Triangle Press will continue to cover this story.
To read our coverage of the information contained in SAR obtained by Avenatti, click here.